Thursday, October 15, 2009

Feast: Saint Teresa of Avila: Virgin and Doctor of Prayer

By F. K. Bartels
Catholic Online (

St. Teresa’s whole life is one of simple beauty and fervent purpose; it is a life contained in Christ. She shows us how to live the same way through Prayer.

St. Teresa was canonized in 1622, a scant forty-five years after her death. Pope Paul VI, on September 27, 1970, officially declared the Carmelite nun to be the first woman Doctor of the Church. (Teresa of Avila, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini 1598-1680)

GLADE PARK, Colorado (Catholic Online) - Teresa Sanchez Cepeda Davila y Ahumada was born on a Wednesday morning in the Castilian town of Avila, March 28, 1515. She was the third of nine children. Her mother, Dona Beatriz Davila y Ahumada, a woman of great understanding and virtue, died while St. Teresa had but reached only her thirteenth year. She describes her father as a virtuous man, always chaste, who carefully and joyfully followed the Lord’s commandments.

As a youngster, St. Teresa had a strong devotion to St. Joseph and Our Lady, often finding a quiet place in the house to pray the Rosary. She had a favorite brother who was close to her own age; they enjoyed reading the lives of the saints together, and, one day, decided the quickest path to heaven was that of martyrdom. St. Teresa says of this, "I used to think that they [the martyrs] had bought their entry into God’s presence very cheaply. Then I fervently longed to die like them, not out of any conscious love for Him, but in order to attain as quickly as they had those joys which, as I read, are laid up in Heaven" (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, Penguin Classics, 1957, p. 24).

She notes that, as she grew into a teen, vanity, idle companionship, and unfruitful reading caused her harm. As for her interest in books, she comments: "I was so enthralled by it that I do not believe I was ever happy if I had not a new book" (Ibid., p. 26). St. Teresa often relates of her sorrow for those teenage years, as well as some years beyond them, when she had not yet given herself completely to her beloved Jesus; even writing of a vision of hell, in which she experienced a horrifying place that she believed had been prepared for her as her eternal residence had not our Lord Jesus rescued her.

At age sixteen, though happily acting as a boarder in the Augustinian Convent of Avila, St. Teresa had no interest in becoming a nun. Yet under the influence of Sister Maria Briceno, a holy and pious woman, St. Teresa’s love for prayer and holiness grew stronger. After an illness which required her to return home, she visited with her uncle, read some spiritual books he had, and, after three months of spiritual conflict, decided to become a nun. After reading from St. Jerome, she found the courage to tell her father of her plans, though he was opposed to the idea. St. Teresa, at age twenty-one, quietly entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila in November, 1536. St. Teresa spent, chiefly, the next twenty years at this convent.

During her life in the Carmelite Convent, St. Teresa struggled with her spiritual growth, yet, through persistence and love and over the course of many years, her union with God would flourish. She would experience unfathomable spiritual graces: locutions, transports, visions, and levitations – her soul would reach spiritual maturity.From about 1562 to 1582, St. Teresa traveled Spain founding 17 convents; the last of which was at Burgos, Spain, in April, 1582. At the request of her confessors, she wrote one of the greatest works on prayer, her autobiography, best known as The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, which she completed in 1565.

According to J. M. Cohen, who wrote the introduction, her autobiography is the most widely read prose classic of Spain. This work, considered one of her most important, explained many aspects of her life in the convent: her struggles with the sins of her past life; her constant pursuit of virtue and holiness; the distress the devil caused her; suffering inflicted by inexperienced confessors; and the ways in which God granted her mercy and wondrous mystical graces.Among one of the most important aspects of St. Teresa’s autobiography is her account of the four stages of prayer. St. Teresa teaches "beginners", as she refers to them, the way in which they might attain, with God’s grace, higher levels of perfection, holiness, and prayer. It is a book in which the devout and properly disposed soul may achieve great profit; for its descriptive language is simple, beautiful, and readily understandable.

See also from Catholic Culture, "Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, virgin and doctor."


At 9:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lord Jesus Christ with the help of all Your angels and saints, thank you so much for all the blessings you have showered me and my children.In our everyday trials ,I would say we are coping and be able to handle it positively and be ready for another day. In my prayers for an additional income to meet our financial obligations and needs, I would say, I encountered no problems. My prayers for our house in Cheville and Chestnut, I am happy that there are already inquiries. Lord, I pray for serious tenants to close the deal this December. I pray for the right person to rent our properties soon. I would pray for Nat and the owners of the tutorial to decide and rent our place immediately. Lord, be with me always and help in all my decisions so as not to hurt anybody. Lord, I thanked You for the strength, peace of mind and happiness I now have. Please let me live in my faith to You when I am discouraged and depressed especially when it comes to my ex partner. I pray for him to realize his wrongdoings towards me and our kids. Lord, You are my life and I would like that soon I will deserve to be called Your child and be loved by You. Lord bless my family, brothers and sisters,home, properties and and people in it,and the people in pain and sufferings and also that people praying for me and my family.Thank You Lord. AMEN.


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